Back-To-School Picture Books


I'm running a day behind, as we gear up for the girls' return to school on Tuesday(!), so I will have my "What We're Reading" post up tomorrow this weekend.  In the meantime...

Did you catch what I said up there?  Back-to-school?  This Tuesday???

I cannot believe summer vacation is coming to an end.  It feels too short, and the time has passed too quickly.  Come Tuesday, my baby girls will be in 3rd and 1st grades.  No more kindergarten baby days.  Sigh.

I thought I would share three school-related titles with you today.  Each has been released in the past few months, and the girls and I have read them all.

Monsters Love School by Mike Austin.
Harper, 2014.

Monsters Love School is a very cute book about a group of monsters excited to head back to school, and one blue guy who is scared about starting school.  His monster friends are there to reassure him throughout the day, as they learn their "ABCs and 123s and XYZs," make hats and masks in art class, play at recess, learn to spell "m-o-n-s-t-e-r," eat yummy "monster gruel" at lunch, learn their history (Abraham Monster Lincoln), read at their library book club, and sing at singing club.  You know that Blue is going to have an awesome day in the end.  Who wouldn't?  I want to go to Monster School!


My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I'm Not)
by Peter Brown.

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2014.

I've been waiting to tell you about this book, as we read it last week and loved it.  My Teacher is a Monster (No, I'm Not) is about a little boy who can't stand his teacher.  She yells, she gets mad, she takes away recess, she won't tolerate paper airplane-throwing in class.  Then one day, the boy runs into his teacher at his favorite park.  Little by little, the two get to know each other better, until the teacher looks less like a monster and more like a human being.  This is such a relatable book.  And, of course, Peter Brown's  illustrations are fabulous, as usual.

Planet Kindergarten by Sue Ganz-Schmitt,
illustrated by Shane Prigmore.
Chronicle, 2014.

This has to be one of the cleverest books we've read recently.  Planet Kindergarten is told from the perspective of a little boy pretending to be a space explorer.   It begins with a countdown, leading to the title page.  The text will make you giggle:  "I am assigned to my commander, capsule, and crewmates. 'Don't leave!' I beg...  Parents are sent back to their own planets."  The illustrations are bright and funny.  Mr. B could hear me reading this one, and I heard him chuckle a time or two.  Be sure to check out the cute printables on the book's page at Chronicle Books.  You can also view a book trailer/music video on YouTube.


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The Wild Swans (Little Golden Book)

Hans Christian Andersen's The Wild Swans (A Little Golden Book),
illustrated by Gordon Laite.
Random House, 2014.

My birthday week continues!  Look what I received today:  my all-time favorite fairy tale in Little Golden Book form!  According to the book's page at Random House, Gordon Laite, illustrator of Golden's The Blue Book of Fairy Tales (among other things), created these illustrations back in 1970, but they were never published!  They were recently discovered in the Golden vaults, and only published last month. As you can see, they are gorgeous!


The text is simplified, of course, but true to the original Hans Christian Andersen story, which you can read here.










I'm so curious as to why this book wasn't published all those years ago.  I believe these are some of the finest fairy tale illustrations in the already fine Little Golden Book canon.  What do you think?



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Pippi On The Run

Pippi On The Run by Astrid Lindgren.  Photographs by Bo-Erik Gyberg.  Viking Press, 1971.
"A picture book featuring Inger Nilsson, Maria Persson, and Per Sundberg as Pippi, Annika, and Tommy."

If you're a regular reader of my little blog, you know my daughters and I love the Pippi Longstocking books by Astrid Lindgren. We have finished the four original novels and the Christmas picture book.  We have not, however, watched many of the film and TV adaptations.  When I was checking out the remaining Pippi books from the library, I came across this.  Pippi On the Run was published in 1971, featuring photographs from the 1970 feature film of the same name.


The late-1960s/early-1970s Swedish television series is still the preferred Pippi adaptation in Sweden and most of Europe.  It was re-dubbed into two English-language feature films, with two more spin-off films to follow.  This is the last of the feature films.



If you look this book up on Goodreads, you will see that many readers find this book lacking.  It isn't as well-written as the previous Pippi books.  Those reviewers are probably reviewing the later edition of the book, published with traditional illustrations in the form of a short novel.  If we had read this edition, we would have found it very disappointing.  In its original format, you can see clearly that the book is a movie tie-in, there to showcase the photographs from the film.




I want a house that looks just like Villa Villekulla.  You can tour the original house used in the TV series/movies.  Maybe someday we will visit Sweden.  We can visit this house, as well as Astrid Lindgren's World.

Anyway, the plot of this book is pretty simple to describe.  First, we meet Pippi and her neighbor friends, Tommy and Annika.  We see them clowning around Villa Villekulla, such as in this shot of Pippi pretending her spaghetti is a beard.


So Tommy and Annika get mad at their mother and decide to run away.  Their mother is concerned enough about them to ask Pippi to run away with them.  She trusts Pippi to protect them.  True, the series is not exactly realistic to begin with, what with Pippi's super-human strength and pirate king father and all, but somehow, this is the most jarring plot device of all for me.


They take Pippi's horse, but he runs away for home during a storm.  They find an abandoned house in which to spend the night.  It is also a stopping place for a kind peddler. He sells Conrad's Gripping Glue, and he gives some to Pippi, which comes in handy later.


We see scenes of the children cooking fish they catch.  Pippi even eats the bones!  Pippi goes over the river in a barrel, and floats far away from her friends.  They spend a day lost, looking for one another, before finding each other on a village street.  There, Pippi teaches them to dance in the street for money.

Pippi also teaches them how to jump from a bridge to the top of a moving train.  {Note from my freight conductor husband:  NEVER DO THAT, KIDS!!!}  From there, they jump into the back of a haywagon. They convince the farmer to let them sleep in the barn.  The farmer's boys are fascinated by the children, especially the baby.


Pippi, Tommy, and Annika are rather taken with the farm animals.  Note Lindgren's description of the baby chicks:  "There were baby chicks, too, small and soft and yellow and ugly."  I never thought of a cute little baby chick as ugly!  This sentence made us giggle.


Pippi saves the baby from a charging bull.  In return, the grateful farmer lets her have his rusty old car, saying she'll have to come visit if she wants to see it, as it won't start.  Two hours later, with a little help from Conrad's Gripping Glue, she has it going.  They say goodbye to the kids, and Pippi drives off with Tommy and Annika.  The farmer freaks out about a little girl driving, but you know, it's Pippi!


The brakes are out.  The kids have a dangerous joyride in the car before it becomes airborne, landing in a lake.  The children take advantage of the water to have a swim and in Annika's case, a bath.  (Annika is very, very concerned with cleanliness.)  Pippi insists on wearing her clothes, so they can be washed, too, but Tommy and Annika undress.  Once ashore, they find their clothes have been completely consumed by some cows in the field.  They make gunnysack clothes, and off they go to beg again in another village.


It's Market Day at the village, and no one is in the mood to give money to sad little beggar children.  So Pippi decides to be a tightrope walker instead.  The children earn a lot more money this way!


The children are taken in by a kind police officer who, nevertheless, locks them in the jail for the night.  He plans to call their parents the next morning.  Of course, this is Pippi we're talking about.  All she has to do is bend the bars and the children are free.  Pippi informs her friends that once she is home, she will send some gold pieces to the police officer to make amends for the mess she made of the jail.  Once she is home. Tommy and Annika decide they miss their home after all, and the three set off once more.


Pippi's horse meets them on their way, and the three children return home.  Pippi declines Tommy and Annika's mother's invitation to dinner.  At the end of the book, Tommy and Annika watch Pippi through their windows.  They call to her, but she doesn't hear them.  It's all right, though.  In the morning, they will race over to see Pippi again.


Here is the original trailer for the movie Pippi on the Run.  





And I did find the full movie dubbed in English on Dailymotion, if you care to watch.  




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Route 66 in Galena, KS


This weekend, we ventured to the Joplin, Missouri area to visit my husband's family.  My husband and his brother had some family business to take care of on Saturday, so the girls and I had some hours to kill on our own.  One of the things we did was take Route 66 from Joplin to little Galena, KS, home of the original rusted-out mining boom truck that inspired the character "Tow Mater" from the Pixar movie Cars.  (That's the original truck on the right.  The one on the left is painted, and says "Radiator Springs" on the side.)



As you can see, Galena is pretty proud of its status as a Route 66 town.  "The Mother Road" only cuts through a tiny strip of Kansas between Missouri and Oklahoma.  Ever since Mr. B, his best friend, and I road-tripped to and from Phoenix back in 2004, I've dreamed of making a trek across Route 66, sticking to as much of the original road as possible.  The girls haven't seen much yet.  Besides this little stretch, their only other experience on Route 66 was seeing the Round Barn and Pops in Arcadia, OK.






Galena is full of crumbling buildings with a lot of character.  Personally, I love visiting towns like this.  It's proud of its heritage, both as a Route 66 stop and as the first mining town in southeast Kansas.



Had to get a picture of this old Burlington Northern for my railroad conductor husband!


And here we have Mater!  He was originally on display at an old Kan-O-Tex service station called 4 Women on the Route.  Recently renamed Cars on the Route, it serves as a diner and souvenir shop.


This stunning blue automobile was all over the town that day.  We even followed it a bit on the old Route 66 as we headed back to Joplin.  Isn't it perfect behind the old Kan-O-Tex gas pump?


I'll leave you with the trailer for Mater and the Ghostlight.  Fitting as it also ties in the local lore of the "spooklight."



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